Temple of doom?

Hey out there to the world of people and the few who read the drivel I write. Today I’m going to write about a game and the reason behind why they are the games I’ve been playing recently.

Over the last few months we have had the usual post Christmas slump in exciting new games and as such I’ve not had a huge amount to get excited about in the world of games. Everyone has been super hyped for things like Uncharted 4 and Doom. Neither of which particularly interest me. I’ve never played any of the other uncharted games, so jumping in at number 4 seems like a silly idea. Luckily a friend has the Uncharted Collection and has offered to lend me it at some point, so maybe I’ll get around to playing the rest of them at some point. Doom, is not something that has appealed since the very early pixel-ey versions. Doom 3 relied too much on jump scares for my liking (I know I’m a complete wuss and don’t care at all) So, hence my lack of interest in what can at best described as “meh” for me.

Also, on a personal level I think it’s never a good thing when a publisher fails to send out review copies. You might think it’s very important that the multiplayer and ability to snap bits of maps together to make new levels is integral to the experience but I’m of the opinion that loads of pre-order bonuses and lack of reviews usually heads towards a lacklustre game. I may be wrong, but why can’t all those guys who help to sell your game play through the main single player story?

Anyway, rant over…

I’ve not been excited about anything being released and have nothing really I’m interested in playing as part of my back catalogue. I’m getting pretty good at finishing games nowadays. So, I have a couple of games I can go back to.

Fallout 4 – I never finished it but feel like it’s such an undertaking to start again or even carry on from my last save and I never really got to grips with the whole base building stuff anyway.

Bloodborne – Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m just not good enough. I got about as far as I think I can in that game. Again, jump scares but mostly because I don’t have the part of the brain that detects patterns and repetition, which is why I never really got on with FF13…

So I suppose I could say I’m in a bit of a gaming funk…nothing to play, nothing exciting me at the moment…but that would be a lie. I’ve played a fair few games recently…So I give you, my indie game phase.

Well, I say indie, I’m thinking short simple games, put together by small teams, and released at a cheaper price point. Also, it is worth noting that all of these games have been free with the PlayStation Plus subscription at some point in the last year or so…which means they were already downloaded and installed on the PS4. Free is a great price point when you don’t know what you want to play, and if it is also installed that saves a bit of time too.

The next few posts will about these games, rather than lump them all together in one post, I’ll spread them out over a couple or 3 posts, just to make it easier to gather my thoughts.

The first of the free games I played, is a small title called Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. Developed by Crystal Dynamix who I will admit are not what you would call an indie developer, but the game feels very indie. It is the sequel to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and is a small Diablo-esque isometric dungeon crawler puzzler type of thing. It has the feeling of a small team working to make a small, quick game experimenting with what a Tomb Raider game can do.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. The fixed camera viewpoint is interesting and this type of game works really well in the Tomb Raider / Lara Croft universe. It’s worth noting however, that this is not the rebooted Lara, this is an experienced Lara more akin to the early games rather than the SquareEnix reboot games. The game alternates between being a bit of an action dungeon crawler in the style of Diablo, with mobs of enemies coming at you in waves, twin stick shooting being the order of the day to defeat them. Actually this works quite well and reminds me somewhat of Dead Nation in it’s game-play. The puzzle elements work quite well too, with the answers being within reach after a little thought, but more tricky to execute due to time limits on gates or bombs.

The graphics are pretty impressive for a small game but rarely does the engine get to show off its prowess. The fixed camera and the zoom level of the game really limit how good the engine can look. Every now and then however, a short cut-scene is delivered in engine and you notice how much effort went into modelling the characters and world, that you don’t see while playing the game.

Now, this brings me to my only gripe about the game. The in game engine is excellent for cut scenes, it really shines at those points where the story is advanced. However, it is only about 25% of the cut scenes that are delivered in the game engine. The rest are delivered through graphic novel style panels, which are well drawn and bring an interesting vibe to the game, but I feel like the development team should have had the courage and conviction of their work and stuck with either the game engine or the graphic novel style for all the cut scenes. This would have given the game a more cohesive feel.

As it is it feels like the product of a couple of smaller dev teams cobbling something together in their spare time. One team wanted a puzzle game, one a Diablo game, one team wanted to do graphic novel cut-scenes, the other felt the engine could deliver.

As such it feels a little disjointed in places, meaning I don’t feel that it ever reaches the heights it could have done with a single team or a project lead with a clear focus for the game.

I enjoyed my time with it and have to admit it prompted me to give the first game a go on the Desktop PC in the living room. Unfortunately while this ran fairly well, there are moments where the frame rate dips to unplayable, so I gave that up, at least until I can afford to build my next beastly gaming rig…

As an introduction to smaller indie games (albeit from a large AAA dev team) this peaked my curiosity and helped me to see that small, perhaps under the radar games, are worth giving a shot. Most telling is that in the spreadsheet of 2016 games, this is marked as “done” but Fallout 4 is languishing unfinished in the pile of shame.

Check back soon for my thoughts on a few other indie games…

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